New pollution limits set by Maryland in an effort to improve water quality in the state's coastal bays have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The bays have relatively high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which helps to feed algae blooms and harms aquatic life by depleting levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. Sources of the nitrogen and phosphorus are thought to include agriculture and urban runoff, septic systems and wastewater treatment plants.
Maryland's list of impaired waters officially recognizes the bays as impaired by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
The New Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) that were submitted to the EPA by the Maryland Department of the Environment show the maximum amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that the coastal bays can receive and still meet state water quality standards, WBOC-TV reported.
The TMDLs cover Assawoman Bay, Isle of Wight Bay, Sinepuxent Bay, Newport Bay and Chincoteague Bay in the Coastal Bays watershed in Worcester County, Maryland.
Scientists at the state environment department said that the volume of nutrients entering the bays needs to be reduced by up to 35 percent for nitrogen and up to 18 percent for phosphorus in most areas. Higher reductions are required in some tributaries of the Isle of Wight Bay, while nutrients are capped at their current levels in Sinepuxent Bay.
EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin welcomed the "environmental leadership" shown by the State of Maryland in restoring its coastal waters.
"Creating a solid plan of action opens the door to better water quality for aquatic life and shellfish harvesting," he added.